In Search of Wisdom: Rural versus the Metropolis

Published in: NepalNews.com

The Jimirghat Bridge over Kali River had broken during the Maghe-Sankranti fair of 1978. This meant that Kali became a formidable barrier in route to Kathmandu from our mountain village. In the midst of torrential monsoon rain, on a single log canoe ferry, we took a risky adventure of crossing Kali, which was roaring with massive flood water. The risks and difficulties of our journey were overshadowed by our excitement for new experiences. Our first ever bus ride the next evening from Naudanda to Pokhara also remained forever memorable. In the evening of the third day, we took our first step to Kathmandu city, the gateway to future for aspirants. Its notable impact was a realization that we in the villages were so far behind in the race of time. Continue reading

In Search of Wisdom: The Dilemma of a Truth Seeker

Published in: PratibhaPunj(Print Media)

“Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.” Albert Einstein

Shortly after writing the final semester exam of Intermediate in Science (Grade 12), I headed to Rasuwa, a district north-west of Kathmandu bordering China, in search of a teaching job. I arrived at Dhunche Bazaar in a winter evening. Coincidently, a day earlier in Dandagaun, I had found that there works a supervisor from my own district, Baglung. And his presence was a thread to hang onto in a strange place. I met him at the upper floor of District Education Office building, where a group of people were playing a card game. He was considerate to make an arrangement for me to stay with a junior staffer, a young and spirited person who hosted me by sharing a meal of rice and mountain potato curry, and his only bed in a crammed apartment. I slept under a warm Sirak (quilt) shared with him and escaped the bitter winter cold of Dhunche. Continue reading

In Search of Wisdom: The Paradox of Rituals

Published in: Nepalnews.com

As a young boy, I grew up amidst traditional Hindu rituals that permeated most aspects of our lives. Year-long mourning of a deceased parent, 13 days mourning of close relatives, homage to ancestors, warding off of scabies or ghosts, periodic fasting, worshiping of deities, daily prayers, harvest ceremonies, greetings, and cleansing of the body are some examples of those rituals. Rituals defined our loyalty, respect, and interrelationships with gods, ancestors and everything that existed around us. Rituals came with magical qualities of communion, self-awareness, awe, solace, and intrigue. They often espoused happy memories in our psyche. On the downside, rituals were also like pests. They carried the burden of orthodoxy, competition of show-off, exposition of social hierarchies, financial burden, fear of ridicule in not-following or improperly-following them, and threat to scholarly freedoms.

I remember a time when my neighbours caught me not wearing my prescribed “sacred thread”. To them it was solid proof of my deviation from my sanctioned duties. This became a matter of big ridicule and laughter in the village. I was relieved for the fact that my parents did not have to face this for they had already passed away. A student of engineering, dissatisfied by the lack of pursuit of science, technology and research in Nepal when some other countries were in the age of space exploration, I was appalled by the shroud of religion worn by the oppressive rulers of Nepal at the time. To me, our rituals looked so outdated, draconian, and superstitious. They did not make sense to me, albeit they did to my villagers for whom they were like fundamental basis of existence. Therefore, contradictions existed between the young and the old, learning and the all-knowing, aspiring and the habituated, and proof and the belief. And I belonged to the rebelling camp that sought justification and proof as the basis of accepting anything and everything. Continue reading

In Search of Wisdom: The Art of Giving

Recently a friend had invited me to attend an exclusive gathering of select industrialists, entrepreneurs, and politicians including the Industry Minister of Canada. While attending the program, I encountered an environment that made me discover the ease, unease, nuances and opportunities that relate to giving and taking. Most importantly, this event compelled me to think about the art of giving.

The program was organized by a brilliant and charming friend in an exquisite venue with great ambiance, superb dinner, and ample supply of beverage. As I quickly discovered, each seating in the table had a pledge form and all the pledged money would go to an environmental scholarship fund created for young and aspiring students in a rural riding currently represented by the minister. Being a person of rural upbringing, respectful of environmental causes, earned three degrees with scholarships, and concerned about depletion of rural fortunes, I was inspired to give. The key people behind the creation of the concept were there and sitting on my left was the chairperson of the scholarship fund who had traveled to Nepal some 20 years ago. He had a positive influence on me and I felt a sense of duty to encourage his affinity to giving for the society. On my right was a successful manufacturer, and beyond him was yet another businessman. I filled up the form except the dollar amount for which I started to think and my mind traveled over vast distances in a quest of determining the right amount while I was talking to the gentlemen around me. Continue reading

In Search of Wisdom: Where does success live?

Published in: NepalNews.com

“Presented at an interaction program organized by Noble Initiative for Community Empowerment, and Knowledge Net”

JANUARY 31, 2009, WASHINGTON DC, USA

What is success? Where does it live? How can it be found? Why are we concerned about it? These are some of the key concerns of humans from time immemorial. Texts written millennia ago gave much importance to this subject and it remains as relevant today. Despite so much cumulative progress made by humans, we often find ourselves in a rat race with no end in sight, and our hard work does not seem to lead to desired end. Yet some people seem to find success with relative ease! This article explores definition, key attributes, and a pathway to success in a hope to reveal why some people are more successful than the others. Continue reading

In Search of Wisdom: Duty versus Achievement

Published in: INSN.org | NepaliPost.com | Nepalipress.com

“The paths of glory at least lead to the grave, but the paths of duty may not get you any where.” – American humorist James Thurber

Duty, duty, duty! I have so many memories of hearing my father rendering lectures on duty to my brothers, who in turn lectured me. “Did you do your work?” “Why were you aggressive?” “Did you do your prayers?” I can recall many such examples of defined and implied duties and their executions and mis-executions. And the same reality manifests in more sophisticated forms in my journey of life from Madi, Modi, Dordi, Daraundi, Bagmati, Ganga to Ottawa. But never had it occurred to me to look inside this world of duty until recently.

Just last month, a project required some competent and experienced people for its execution. I was, therefore, looking for the best matches from a stack of resumes where each person had a substantial amount of industry experience padded with degrees like Masters and Ph.D. In the end, however, there was not one resume that really inspired me. Each wrote what duties they had performed and listed in length all the networking protocols, operating systems, and computer languages they had exposure on, be it intimate or remote. I could not, however, figure out on which item they carried exceptional knowledge and experience. In essence, I figured out what duties they had performed without really knowing what their achievements were. While looking for an achiever, I was finding the obedient. Continue reading

In Search of Wisdom: The Utility of Inheritance

Published in: INSN.org | NepalNews.com | PrabasiNepali.com | NepalDalitInfo.net | Nepalipress.com

My mother’s death came so early and suddenly that I had neither time nor the capacity for contemplating about life seriously. However, this event made me contextually old enough to understand my father’s ailments and to sense the fright of his inevitable and impending death. I remember dwelling on the “when” and “how” of my life as a farmer in the land that I would consequently inherit. I was, however, hopeful of completing my high school and supplementing the farm income with some job. But my life took an unexpected turn and I pursued other dreams. I became an urbanite and my brothers who lived in the village subsequently sold our house, with my acceptance. Although done with benevolent motives, my brothers made a different judgment call than I in the affairs of selling the property inherited from our parents. The day after signing off the paper for selling the house and the land surrounding it, which my father had apparently registered in my name, I had said to my brother that I was distressed. And, my brother was equally bothered by my lack of understanding about his predicaments. Our wounds were healed years ago but the images and scars are well and alive today to be re-read. The positive side of this is that I came to understand the institution of inheritance better than I could ever learn by chasing great libraries of the world. Continue reading

In Search of Wisdom: The Utility of Research

Published in: INSN.org | NepalNews.com | NepaliPost.com | Nepalipress.com

It was 1979 when I left my home in search of formal education beyond what was available in my village. After passing through many winding roads of life for a decade, I ended up in Canada for higher studies, making my living in doing research. An already convinced admirer of science and technology, I started viewing well-known researchers with high regards – into the league of the enlightened. I was also passionate about research and dreamt of becoming a highly acclaimed researcher one day. When two of my inventions were sent for patenting in 2000, I was proud. I recalled, from my Grade 5 Mahendra Mala, the sketch of Marie Curie reaching a shelf as a young and inquisitive girl. The picture had inspired a dream in me of becoming a great scientist one day and having my life storey written like hers in books. The patent applications made me momentarily feel as if I was on my way to “dream come true”. However, within short span of time, there was a high-tech fiasco. Stocks started to tumble and high-tech companies began to disappear one after another. We switched our gear from “close to fundamental” research to “marginal” type research on products that were already in the market. No more patents came out from my latter works. Nevertheless, I was just as proud in hearing that the US patent office had approved those applications. Continue reading

In Search of Wisdom: Where is the Heartbeat of a Society?

“What might be an aid strategy that can equip and empower local communities to improve their capacity to care for themselves?” By posing this question, an Australian professor made my mind travel through time to examine the happenings of my village. Stored images of my own memories, contained information that could bear an insight for social researchers who develop therapy to treat our current ailments!

My community was made up of those people who richly interacted with one another, with nature, and with an abstract entity called Samaj – the society. Their interrelationships gave rise to an institution to which I belonged. So many provisions were inconspicuously there for me, but I knew nothing but to take them for granted. Phulbari had mangoes, Chautary had shades and platform for rest, Pokhari held the monsoon water for the cattle enough for the whole year, Dhaireni had grass for the cattle, Raniban had fodder for them and timber for the house and barn, Theule River had swimming pools, Majh Kulo brought water to the paddies, Sahar Bato and Dahar Bato led to numerous trails for cattle and humans alike. The rice paddies and millet groves brought harvests in one season and were converted to pastures and playgrounds in other seasons; they were private and full of boundaries in one season, while fully public and wide open in others. Therefore, my community was an institution that built and maintained public and private infrastructures for sustaining our livelihood and building our economy. Continue reading

In Search of Wisdom: What is the Root Cause of Inequality?

Published in: NepalNews.com | INSN.org | Nepalipress.com | PrabasiNepali.com

Is not it the desire of each of us to live with growing wealth that surpasses everyone else’s? Yet, the same “we” seek justice, equality, and social responsibility when we are in the receiving end. We want us to be treated with equal dignity when we run into profound difficulties like natural disaster, illness, unemployment, failure, or injustice. The duality of prosperity and equality is such that they are irreducibly distinct yet one gains significance only in the existence of the other. They are like body and mind, which are distinct but one could not have existed without the other. When there is nothing quantifiable to possess, we would neither know what the share of each individual is nor think of equality; if there was no notion of equality, we would not care that some have more than the others. Fortunately or unfortunately, there is always something to be possessed and our mind is naturally keen on the subject of equality – the interest of this article.

Human as a species has been successful because of its ability to live, work, and produce socially and think individually. In the process, human is exemplifying the equality of individuals when strengthening the cause of the society, but uniqueness of individuals when giving rise to new ideas and innovations. Yet, we have this perpetual confusion in finding the “correct” way of maximizing both equality and prosperity. Amidst this and in the absence of introspection, we are becoming subservient to the mode of operation that finds its roots in immediate gratification better known as “the American Way.” Consequently, many developing countries are giving over emphasis on material prosperity and undermining human equality, delivering neither the stated prosperity nor the social values that make them survive against odds. Nepal is one of those countries that got a rude awakening from the pitfalls of blindly pursuing “the American Way” and its promoters are crying foul today when people knocked them off from the chair. Continue reading

In Search of Wisdom: The Utility of Momentum

“This tendency for motion (or for rest) to maintain itself steadily unless made to do otherwise by some interfering force can be viewed as a kind of ‘laziness,’ a kind of unwillingness to make a change.” Issac Asimov

Inertia is defined in physics texts as the tendency of objects to stay in their current state of motion or rest. Although read three centuries after its rediscovery by Isaac Newton, I never realized that the inertia exists outside of the domain of objects whose mass can be measured in grams and kilos. Even the education and experience of two decades in engineering could not teach me how pervasive the reach of this theory was. Thanks to Gyanendra, the then-king of Nepal, I was exposed to a whole new domain of knowledge. The turn of events illustrated by his actions let me discover that human pursuits also have inertia, just like objects with mass, but only more potent and complex. I noticed that my conscience, then moving in its own steady course, had stumbled upon a huge external force that had made me venture outside engineering. Continue reading

In Search of Wisdom: Public Discourse and Democracy

Published in: NepalNews.com | NepaliPress.net | NepaliPost.com | PrabasiNepali.com | DcNepal.com

A key characteristic of an enterprising society is an intentional pursuit of knowledge and reasoning. Successful civilizations of the past, including that of our own, were committed to public reasoning for advancing social progress. Vedas, Upanishads, Mahabharata and many more ancient literatures are bold accounts of contradictions of thoughts. Geeta is an exemplification of contradictions between Krishna and Arjuna and their subsequent cohesion. Buddhist traditions are similarly rich in advancing public discourse as a means of resolving differences in principles and practices adopted in the society. It is said that Asoka’s Buddhist Councils were formalized medium for promoting open discussions on contentious issues while keeping the sanity of the society intact. Public debates build the foundation of a progressive and innovative society that constantly gives rise to new thoughts, systems, enterprises, and values. Continue reading